Common Misconceptions About Background Checks

Being informed that a background check is being run on you can be a concerning experience. Whether that information is coming from a company or an individual, understanding just what information they are looking for should always be your first priority, even if you have nothing to hide. To that end, learning everything there is to know about background checks can help you be better prepared.

However, there are a number of common misconceptions about background checks that can lead a person to unnecessarily worry about the process. By outlining these misconceptions, a person can start to put their mind at ease when told a background check is being filed. 

What is a Background Check?

First and foremost, it’s important to break down what exactly a background check is. A background check is simply a process used by an organization or person to gain detailed information on a person’s past, most often for the purpose of ensuring they are who they say they are.

For jobs, as an example, an employer may simply want to head over to people search finder websites to check whether you have a criminal record and whether your education matches up with what you listed. 

There are seven primary types of background checks that a person could run depending on what they are looking for:

  1. Criminal Background Check
  2. Motor Vehicle Report Background Check
  3. Identify Verification Background Check
  4. Fingerprint Background Check
  5. Credit Report Background Check
  6. Certification and Education Background Check
  7. Employment Eligibility Background Check 

Some people or potential employers may choose to run a number of these checks, or they may choose to run a comprehensive report that includes all your historical information. It’s worth noting that criminal records that were sealed shouldn’t show up on a background check but be ready to potentially talk about those. 

What Information Does a Background Check Provide?

Understanding the different types of background checks is one thing, but knowing the information they provide is another. In most cases, a standard employment or personal background check will include the following information in the report:

  • Any pending criminal charges, both state and federal, that may be outstanding.
  • Past misdemeanor or felony convictions
  • Acquitted charges or dismissed charges
  • Identify information such as birthdate and verification of social security information.
  • Identity fraud alerts
  • Most recent enrolled educational level
  • Credit reports containing information such as debt levels and credit inquiries
  • Eligibility status for work in the United States

Certain background checks may provide more details than others, but the above are a few of the most common pieces of information that a standard report will provide. Many of these reports also include name and SSN verification to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of the information.

When is a Background Check Necessary? 

Background checks can be run for virtually any purpose, as it’s completely legal. Employment applications are one of the most common reasons a background check may be run on a person. In fact, around 94% of companies run background checks on their potential employees prior to hiring them.

With that said, personal background checks can be run, but their legality without reason ebbs and flows on a state-by-state basis. In most cases, though, a person can run a background check on another if they are meeting up with them for a date if that person is dating someone they know, or for a variety of other reasons. 

Pros of a Background Check

  • Detailed information on a person’s life
  • This may allow a person to better understand the motivations of the person who has been checked
  • Greater feeling of security in the workforce
  • Better probability of a cultural fit on the job

Cons of a Background Check 

  • The possibility for bias to occur based on the results of the background check
  • Old information that is no longer applicable to who you are will be on the report.
  • If you have gone through identity fraud, there may be pieces of information on the report that is still being solved, which can be a headache.

Most Common Background Check Misconceptions 

As you start to go through the background check process, keep the following misconceptions in mind: 

1. All Background Checks Provide the Same Information

Background checks do not provide the same information. There are seven primary types of background checks, each of which provides slightly different information. While comprehensive reports can be generated that overlap information, not all background checks are the same. 

2. Your History Will Automatically Disqualify You From a Role

Employers may not immediately disqualify you for a role just because you have a criminal history, in fact, they shouldn’t. Most companies will request to speak with you further if they find unexpected information on your report, however, so be ready to speak on your past. 

3. An Employer Is Just Looking for a Reason to Not Hire You

Many people often assume that because an employer is running a background check, they are looking for an excuse not to hire someone. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The majority of companies conduct background checks to ensure a cultural fit and to maintain a safe workplace. 

4. You Aren’t Allowed to Dispute Found Information

When a company runs a check on you, most people assume they can’t reach out to discuss the information. If you know something will come up on your report, you have every right to reach out to the company and offer to explain what they are reading.

5. Only Large Companies Will Conduct Background Checks

While background checks are expensive and are less common with smaller organizations, they are still likely to be run to a degree. When applying for a smaller role, if your intention is to avoid a background check, you may be surprised at the end of the application process. 

Pass Your Background Check Today

Even if your history is clean as a whistle, there’s something about hearing the words “background check” that can make you feel worried. Rest assured, however, that a background check is a perfectly normal part of many employment applications and legal matters. Simply provide all information accurately so that there are no issues when the report is run, but also be ready to discuss anything questionable that may come up on your background check.

Common Misconceptions About Background Checks was last updated June 11th, 2024 by Susan Melony